The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Return of the King

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: 
there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.

Book 6, Chapter 2 of 'The Lord of the Rings' by J.R.R. Tolkien

In this seemingly God-less world that we have inherited, there is a tendency for us to look at all the 'evil' around us and to despair, even of life at times. However, as we read in the quote above, it is when we lift our vision above the trials, tribulations and struggles of this thing we call 'Life' that we realize that there is a Power greater than the 'evil' that surrounds us! It is this Power which is at work in us; this Power enables us, through the strength He has given us, to deal with this 'evil', with these trials, tribulations and struggles, and to overcome and overturn them. It is this Power which enables us to rise above and to take hope in the fact that we have been made 'a new creation', 'the leaves of the Tree', that were 'for the healing of the nations'.

This Power, which resides in us is none other than the Almighty King, the Creator, and our Father!

As Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin ( can't forget Smeagol/Gollum ) awaited 'The Return of the King', and labored through much toil, hardship and oppression to destroy the one thing that stood in his way, so those first-century followers of Jesus the Christ awaited His return, while they labored through much toil, hardship and oppression and hardship to destroy the one thing that stood in the way of the advancement of His Kingdom, and the spread of His Gospel!

Much as the characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's inspired work; followers of the Son of God have found that, when necessary, they can do great deeds, many beyond their own imagined strength! Because of 'The Return of the King', and the final defeat of those who held the powers of sin and death, God's people no longer live under the threat of the Law, and are free to follow in His footsteps, in His strength, without worrying that one misstep could condemn them forever!

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, 
 and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, 
and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven 
with power and great glory.
Matthew 24:30 

When those first-century followers asked Jesus when He would return, He answered them with this statement. All those who rejected His inclusive Gospel would be suffer His adverse, but just judgment at His return! With Aragorn's return to the stage of ( middle-earth ) history, the force's of evil found themselves losing ground, and finally suffered defeat at the edge of his sword! Yet it was not without the aid of some very courageous followers that the battle was won! So it was in the first century, that the followers of Jesus the Christ overcame, through His strength, the forces of evil that threatened the spread of His Gospel!

Since our King has returned ( since the first century ) and taken up His Dwelling in the midst of His people, what effect should this have on and in their lives? How should we then live? Should we not live according to the freedom we have been given, like the fictional characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece lived ( and fought ), as knowing that the power of evil had been crushed ( destroyed ); that though evil still happened, it had no 'fangs'! Because He has crushed the head of the 'serpent' forever, and now dwells in His New Temple, we can go forth 'conquering, and to conquer', knowing that His salvation is complete, and the battle has been won: we fight mere skirmishes!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Church in ( Realized ) Transition; The Moon IS no More

No, this is not to be yet another article espousing the transition period of the first century AD! This article will not be about trying to prove that this transition period transpired from the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of the Son of God till His return in judgment on His old covenant people, or whether this transition period was from His first advent till His second. I am not going to try to prove that the term 'thousand' ( actually, it's myriads, I believe ) can be 40 'short' years! I've even heard that the transition period may have begun as early as the command to 'go forth and rebuild Jerusalem', or even before! In this article; I will not be going back to that first century transition period, except perhaps in theory, or for instance. What this article is about, primarily, is 'perception'!

For many years ( 150-200, give or take ), the Church has been infested with the notion, in varying degrees, that we are still waiting for the end of that transition period! Here's where we might run into that most familiar, but annoying phrase, 'already, not yet'. Even though Christ has not returned to dwell with His people ( except in Spirit ), some will tell you, we have fully entered into the New Covenant Era. How can we be in the New Covenant, if He has not yet returned to complete the renewal of that Covenant? We, as Christians, have already made the transition from the old to the new, 'from death to life', but, because Christ has not returned yet, we do not yet see the complete redemption of His covenant creation, according to this paradigm!

The transition in focus here is not unlike the effects of that first-century transition period: it is powered by the same Creator, although maybe not with quite the same impetus and end as that one did! This is more of a realization of the true transition, not as an 'already, not yet' proposition, but as a 'NOW' reality! More and more Christians, even those outside the visible, organized 'church', are beginning to make this transition from varying degrees of 'already, not yet' to realizing that we have all the promises in Christ 'NOW'

'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him'.
John 14:23 

The verse above has become one of my favorite verses to quote, recently, because although most Christians would agree that the verse plainly states that the Godhead dwells with us ( Jesus is in our 'hearts' ), I believe that most do not realize the fullness of what that means! If the Godhead dwells with us, having made Their home with us, as we are the new Temple, then that must mean that 'Heaven' DID 'come down', 'and Glory filled my soul, when', as the old hymn states, 'at the cross, the Savior made me whole'.

At this juncture, we could get into all the speculative argumentation about how, if Jesus ( in the flesh ) is still sequestered in some 'pie in the sky 'Heaven' ( up there ), then how is He dwelling with us now? Oh, right; He is a Spirit, He dwells everywhere at once! But ifd the Godhead, as per the statement above, dwells with us, who's in 'Heaven'? Oh, right; same answer! This could go on and on if it was allowed, but the simple truth is; when Jesus made this promise to those believing in, covenanting with Him, He meant it, and it wasn't contingent on believing that we already have all these things 'NOW'!

So, what does all this have to do with the moon? 

In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more.
Psalm 72:7

 Whether you read statements like this in the Bible and think immediately of that cold, hard orb ( 'that rules the night' ) hanging out there in space, or whether you realize, as many are beginning to, that the creation of this colossal rock was simply as a representation of God's old covenant people, and the way that they were to reflect His glory into their dark and dreary world; it is clear that, even after this 'moon' has been done away with, God's people still flourish!

Together with the revelation, above, from the Gospel according to John, we should be able to begin to piece together what the inspired psalmist meant when he penned those words. No longer do the righteous followers of Jesus, the children of God, merely reflect the justice and mercy of God into a dark and dreary world; the love of God in Jesus now shines out FROM us! Maybe this is what Daniel ( 12:3 ) and then Jesus ( Matthew 13:43 ) meant when they said, 'Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father'. There is a tendency, when using language in this way however, to be construed as saying that we are divinity, that we are God! Although I have toyed with the idea that we ARE divine, being indwelt by the Godhead and thus being incapable of the sin ( I John 3:9 ); I will NOT entertain the notion that we are the One who created all things! 

We are, on our own account, through the power of Him who indwells us, creators ourselves, though on a much smaller scale. It IS through us, the 'leaves of the tree', after all, that He is healing the nations ( some would take issue here, saying that this too, being fulfilled, is complete; no more 'healing' )! Jesus even told His disciples, in this same passage ( John 14:12 ) that 'he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater [ works ] than these he will do, because I go to My Father'. You might interpret that to suit your 'fancy' or pet doctrine. but really; how ELSE can you understand it?!

So, in conclusion, before we get too far off the subject; because of the one final sacrifice of the Son of God, and His subsequent resurrection and ascension; He has redeemed His people from the power of sin and death, and we have made ( speaking corporately here, of course ) the transition from the old to the new, from 'death to life': as Jesus Himself put it, from simply being 'moons', reflectors of His glory, to shining that Light ourselves ( through the Power that dwells in us ) wherever we go, and in whatever we do!

Now THAT, if nothing else, should give us great pause!

Are we shining that Light if we live our lives as though it's 'already, not yet'; even if we are occupying till He comes, and doing our part to be 'the light of the world' ( Matthew 5:14 ); are we really doing what Jesus said we would in places like John 14:12, without realizing the full Truth that we ARE the Light of the world?

However you answer these questions, I think the consensus would have to be a resounding 'YES'!

Even though many Christians, both inside and outside of the organized, institutional church have not realized the fullness of this truth, whether out of ignorance or fear; it is clear to this blogger that God is still using our feeble efforts to advance His Kingdom on earth! May we all realize that we no longer sit in our little corner ( or pew ), or even stand as a beacon ( 'a flag to follow'? ) for the beleaguered of this fallen world to flock to for refuge; we are Shining Lights ( corporately, again ) to let this world know that the One who created them cares about them and wants to have a closer, more intimate relationship with them!

Let's go out and shine that Light on all that we see!

Glorying in His fulness,
Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Faith of Our Fathers, the Sins of Our Fathers

First of all; let me make this disclaimer, I am not an authority on this, or many other subjects, this is simply how I see it. All I ask is that you read what I write, as always, with an open mind and heart, being a good Berean, and form your own conclusions on the matter, and then act on what you know to be true!

There is no doubt in my mind, from what little study I have done of the faith of our founding fathers, that, whether or not we believe that they held the 'correct' doctrine, whether or not they always did what we perceive to be the right things; theirs was an active faith, a faith that, as a good friend of mine recently put it, 'works its way out through your fingertips'. Looking back on their varied and colorful histories, we can find much that we like about them, that we agree with, and with the recent 'ascendancy' of Ron Paul, and the impact that 'his' ideas have had on this sickened and ever-weakening nation, even see the effects that these same ideas have had on our country, in regard to the freedoms that we have enjoyed, but are quickly slipping from our grasp!

In the same vein, but on the other hand, we can look back at those same histories and criticize many of their actions for the reasons outlined above, because they took a slightly different theological stance than we do, or because 'I just wouldn't have done things that way!'

In many ways; and again, I have done no rigorous research on this particular topic, it is easy for the average American to look back at those days of political and often ( more often, I believe, than not ) physical turmoil, and forgetting the times and circumstances in which they lived, the trials and tribulations they faithfully and stubbornly endured, criticize their revolutionary actions. Those critics, I believe, have failed in several areas, one of which is to study their history, and to note the context in which these brave and hardy men lived, fought and died. Another area in which the critics of these men have failed is their understanding of Scripture and of the nature of the Kingdom. The founding fathers of this country, though they may have held certain points of doctrine incorrectly, they did have one thing right, at least as their actions showed; the Kingdom of God, while spiritual in nature, also has a physical aspect, whereby if we grasp the spiritual nature of the Kingdom, that will cause us to live our lives in such a way as to answer the prayer that 'Thy Kingdom come..........on earth as it is in heaven'! I believe that, to whatever extent, they understood this phrase better than most Americans today.

As in theology; context is very important when judging such matters! For instance, and this is an almost random example; when reading the first part of the Gospel according to Luke, from our ignorant American context, it might seem that Luke was claiming that Caesar Augustus was the ruler of the entire world, or globe. We know, however, from reading his statement in its historical, grammatical, and geographical context, that he was simply saying that Caesar decided to make a census ( levy a tax on ) of  his kingdom, or empire. This is only one example among many that could be given from Scripture, but I will give one more and move on. Romans 13:1-7 is a passage that most American Christians seem to believe gives the government almost unlimited power and authority over the citizens, but, though it is clear that our founding fathers did not understand it this way, the main reason for this errant and irresponsibly insensible belief is a misunderstanding, if any understanding at all, of the context, as named earlier, in which the apostle wrote these words.

While our founding fathers may not have had everything right, ( and they didn't; no argument there ), they got at least this one thing right! They understood the rights of kings, and that these rights did not include that of enslaving his subjects. They understood too, though maybe to a lesser extent, that we are all kings and representatives of our Lord Jesus who is the Christ. As representatives of this King, they understood that we are to use our power to advance His Kingdom on earth, not to advance our own!

The Constitution that these men derived from the principles of biblical freedom, as they understood them, was an excellent document, and as long as those enforcing the statutes held therein remained true to that purpose, it served well. It was not, however, without fault! Men better studied and wiser than I could no doubt point out some of the errors in this wonderful document, especially as it now stands, with its many amendations. Although it is well and good, necessary even, that certain of these amendments be made for the good of the people, and the further clarification of the powers given to its government, some of these amendments opened the gates to allow further government control, and a weakening of the will of the people! Our founding fathers, therefore, no doubt had good intentions in writing up our constitution in such a way as to allow for amendment, but one thing that they could not ensure was that these amendments would always be proper, good and even necessary! Human nature, which I'm sure they took into account, has never been totally conformable, naturally or otherwise, to Law! This is what John Adams noted in his famously and oft-quoted ( in ever-widening circles ), 'Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.' Speaking of context though; prior to this famous quote, he stated that 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.' This founding father, along with all the others, I'm sure, understood the fragility and volatility of human nature, probably better than most!

The founding fathers of this country, like all human being on record that have ever lived, were not without fault. They did the best they could with what they had been given, as most of us strive, or should strive to do, but they were not perfect. As I said earlier, I'm sure that there are many points in which one might say that he could have or would have done things differently, but that's about as useless ( and untrue ) as saying that if he had been in Adam's 'shoes', he never would have partaken of the fruit! In fact, if one was to try to write a new and updated constitution for this booming nation today, he ( or she ) would be hard-pressed to write a better! I'm not saying it could not be done, but considering ( especially ) the whole quote above, from John Adams; we can see from the Scriptural example that Law will not keep human beings moral and religious! Another way to say this is; 'you can't legislate ( true ) morality'. One would likely 'catch some flack' if he ( or she ) was to go around quoting this to certain Christians, but really, even though by Law, you may force one to act morally, is it true morality if he does it under duress ( Law ), out of fear of punishment?

From what little I have read of the Constitution ( no; I have never read, much less memorized the whole thing ), even I could probably find areas in which the founding fathers could have provided more for a truer freedom ( biblical ) and ensured a more peaceable address of grievance, but is a stricter adherence to some man-made document enough, even to Scripture itself? Although the Gospel message is present in most any version, and Scripture is not to be of any private interpretation, there are many out there ( versions as well ) that seem to think they may interpret the Scriptures privately, and that one certain version holds preference over another ( ? ), if they even look to Scripture as the revelation of the Word of God. Some don't even acknowledge our Creator at all!

Until all men ( and women ) acknowledge their Creator, and form a right relationship with Him, no constitution is going to hold them. Sure; right, just and good laws may hold their rebellious tendencies in check for a time, like the constitution of these united states did, and still does, to an ever-lessening extent, our government, but, as the progress of history has shown, even those who claim to be followers of Jesus have not always acted as followers of Jesus, much less, loved their neighbor!

There is much talk these days, all around the country, of restoring the Constitution; 'Education is key', you may have heard. Education is very important, and yes, that is what we are ( to be ) about but education alone will not do it; their must be a full-scale turning back to our God and Father, a turning which can only be accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit through us, His people, His Body!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, January 18, 2013

Elitist Hypocrites, or Just Average Tyrants?

Continuing the rant, the recent school shootings ( and unless I am misinformed, there have been several since ) in Connecticut have served to open old wounds, and have given our government another excuse to reintroduce gun control in an exalted ( higher ) level. All this 'hulabaloo' might make one think of Pearl Harbor ( which conspiracy theorists believe was staged to bring the U.S.A. ( Inc. ) into WWII ) and the 'terrorist attacks' of 9-11, about which you may have heard it said, 'we need another 'Pearl Harbor'!' 

You may have heard the NRA condemn our President as an 'elitist hypocrite' because he is reportedly hesitant to place armed guards in every ( public? ) school, while his own children enjoy the 'protection' of the Secret Service in their classroom. You might even agree with this condemnation, and thus you would join the ranks of many in this nation who have begun to note the hypocrisy among the 'elite' in this nation ( for, make no mistake; this may be 'one nation under God', but we are not 'created equal', in the eyes of certain individuals ). You may even have seen the tyranny that has transpired in this nation, and has been creeping over us insidiousssssssssssssly for many, many years!

Do you really believe that our government 'forces' would turn in their weapons as they would ask us to do? I don't think so! Are our troops over in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and wherever else the hell they are, going to start carrying 7-round clips for their M-16s, rather than the 30 or 40 round clips that 'they' need to make the world safe for democracy ( not to mention themselves )? Not hardly! Is our beloved president going to require his Secret Service agents to give up their guns and still protect his children? Of course not! If any of the above were to happen, if the 'elite' ( make no mistake; 'they' DO exist ) were to follow their own rules; their security ( I mean, the security of this nation ) would be compromised!

More and more people are waking up to the revelation of what would likely happen if their government came to be the only ones with weapons of mass destruction. The primary effect of the 'new' gun control talks in D.C. ( because of 'Sandy Hook' ) was that gun and ammo sales skyrocketed ( especially in certain states ), most likely setting precedent which will likely continue into the coming conflagration, likely another 'civil war', but more along the lines of a 'revolutionary war'. If the current and recent administration of this nation has produced one good thing, it is that more Americans are waking up every day to the fact that we are quick becoming a socialist nation, and that all these purported 'safe-guards' are simply thinly disguised ( at best ) instruments for our destruction, the destruction of the principles of freedom ( to say nothing of true biblical freedom ), and the tools of the elite to remain in their exalted position!

Reading these words, and those that have been running rampant elsewhere on the 'world wide web'; many of those with a futurist view of eschatology are having a 'heyday'! This is 'right up their alley' because of their belief ( for the most part ) that the world is 'going to hell in a handbasket'! As things rapidly get worse and worse, the 'Second Coming' of Christ only becomes more imminent. In fact; we probably SHOULD give up our guns, and other assorted freedoms, in order to hasten the 'Return of Christ', and our deliverance from this mess! We really can't hope to do anything about it, right? We don't have the authority anyway, do we??

Can you imagine what would happen in this country if everyone thought and acted like that? The only ones with guns would be the police ( to say nothing of a standing army ) and criminals! How 'safe' would your average citizen be then ( to say nothing of the Christian )? You may have heard that, 'when seconds count, the police are minutes away': this is really not that far-fetched; it's sadly true, not far-fetched at all! Sure; you could find many, many stories, both on the 'web' and otherwise that vividly recount the heroics of certain police officers and armed personnel, from all branches of the armed forces, that will quickly bring you to tears and reinforce your faith in them! Many of these personnel will even acknowledge the intervention of, if not our Creator, some 'Higher Power', but rarely if ever, will you see one of these soldiers admit that they are embroiled in an unjust and unconstitutional war. Why, they might lose their jobs if they were to make such an admission!

This is not a proposal to make things safer; this is an insidious ploy to further remove our freedom! Not that this DOES remove our freedom, for our freedom has been won by the Christ  and guaranteed by our God, Father and Creator! This freedom which we have inherited, not through the sacrifices of the forefathers of this nation, but through the One Final Sacrifice of the Son of God, and through our creation as His Body, is inalienable, as our forefathers recognized!

Should we give up our guns, as our government, the government which many Christians will tell you is instituted by our Creator, tells us? If you have this worldview, the worldview that Jesus is coming back soon to rescue us from the mess that we have created ( ? ) oh wait, that was 'Satan' right? ? ), then you might well lay down your weapons, spurning the gift ( of freedom ) that we have been given, and waiting ( hopelessly and irresponsibly ) for Jesus to come back and redeem all the harm that man has engendered ( ? )! Or, you could cling firmly  to the weapons that you have been provided, and with a firm confidence in the strength we have been given, struggle valiantly to defend our God-given freedoms against the tyranny that seeks to ( further ) enslave us!

So which is it; are you a mouse or a man?

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, January 14, 2013

Inherited Salvation ( A Companion to ''The Salvation of God's People )

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard?
Hebrews 2:3 

Good question, a question that for centuries has bound many Christians in fear, but may be applied to some extent to those who reject that Gospel today. Read in context, it may safely be asserted that the writer's admonition was primarily meant to warn his original and ( finitely ) intended audience. As we read farther ( context ), we may see, and hopefully realize that he is issuing this rhetorical warning to his first-century readers because their history told them that those who rejected the Gospel, both before His Advent, and then after His Parousia, had perished, and were about to lose their status both as a nation and a people.

One might ask another question here, as well, something like, 'will those who reject this salvation in the 21st century suffer the same consequences as they did in the 1st?' That too, could be a good question and worthy of some consideration, but when you really think about it, what did they need to escape? Do we need escape from the same sort of judgment today? One could almost say that we do! We still have a rebellious and wicked nature, do we not? No one could truly deny, I think, that even the best of us is plagued by wrongful desires, thoughts, even secret sins, throughout our lives, even as Christians. That is surely something to escape, correct? Persecution, while not as bad for believers in and followers of Christ in this country as in certain other countries, is escalating at an almost alarming rate! Surely this would be something from which we should make a great escape, right!?

You could speculate on these things till you were blue in the face, but you would most likely be even further from biblical truth then when you started! The escape to which the writer referred was from the just judgment that their fathers had received for their transgression of and disobedience to the Law which had been given them as part and parcel with the Gospel ( Hebrews 4:2 ). The judgment which they should escape, as we see from the wording at the beginning of the letter, was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, in those 'last days'. By not rejecting this great Salvation and by believing His words, many Christians and Jews did escape this adverse judgment by following Jesus' command to 'flee to the mountains'. There are certain believers today who have erroneously followed this command, believing that these words were meant for them. Though they believe that they too, must receive this salvation or bear the same judgment, through the death, burial and resurrection of the Son of God, wherein we have become children of God rather then children of the devil, we no longer, after the cross, must fear the death of Adam, or the consequences of his sin!

Don't get me wrong; I am NOT saying that there are no more consequences for transgression of and disobedience to the Law of God, which many have aptly termed, 'The Law of Love'. There are most surely consequences for the transgression of this Law; we see this every day, and all around the world, specifically in all the wars that beset us and plague the life out of us. There are naturally occurring consequences too, that happen to each and every one of us, even Christians, every day, because we fail, in some point or another to fully uphold this Law!

As we saw in the previous article, the one to which this is a companion, this great salvation which the writer to the Hebrews urged his brethren not to neglect was the salvation that Jesus had previously accomplished on the cross, and was about to seal in a few years! This salvation which we have inherited, and which they in fact had partaken in, had been accomplished about a generation previous to this warning, but would be fully revealed to them in the destruction of the seat of devil-worship, the temple in Jerusalem!

Now we come to the area of consideration which has caused some to throw upon me the name of 'universalist'! Since the reversal of the curse, the destruction of 'him who had the power of death', and the casting into the lake of fire of the devil and hell ( or Hades-Greek mythology ); can we anymore say that men are born in sin, as they were before the Revelation of Jesus the Christ? Can we truly say that anyone who has not yet accepted the Gospel and is living in rebellion to His Creator is without hope? Are they in danger of the same just judgment that those who rejected Him in the first century received? That may be questionable, and indeed it it a plaguing question for those who trust in inherited ( fulfilled ) salvation! Here's a question for both those who believe, and for those who disbelieve; 'does one who inherits have anything to do with what he inherits?' Yes, in a sense, he does, because an heir often must fulfill certain obligations in order to inherit, though not always, but even though, the one who grants the inheritance, may, at his will, grant the inheritance without condition. This sometimes, maybe more often than not ( except in the movies ) happens! Is this what our Father in 'Heaven' has done? Some say 'yay' ( even 'YAY'! ), and some would voice a resounding 'NAY'! So which is it? I personally do not believe, according to my ( imperfect )  reading of Scripture, that one who, for his whole lifetime disdains both God and His 'Law of Love', unless he repents at some time before his biological death ( 'can one truly love after biological death?' ), will inherit this salvation, or eternal life, but what do I know?!

In conclusion then, as we have inherited this salvation, let us reveal, both to those who believe they are still waiting for it, and to those who are truly seeking it, though they know it not, that their warfare is over, they must not fear physical death, for once they have entered into this Salvation, they will never die! Indeed, the Father of mercy ( and of ALL ) will enter in and make His dwelling with them; they need NEVER fear anything! Glorious Truth! 

As in the companion to this article, 'The Salvation of God's People' has been accomplished; the remaining question is, 'who ARE God's people?' The Scriptures have said that we are ALL His offspring! Now that, according to most Christians, and arguably according to Scripture, does NOT mean that they are children of the Most High, and especially the people of God, but can we seriously make a difference between many of those today, who either claim the Name or not, and those children of Israel that we read about in Scripture? In the greatest sense; they have an advantage over those children; they, as we did, have but to realize, to enter into that Salvation, and to enjoy the Presence of God forever!

Realizing ( every day ) our perfection.
 in the midst of my ( own ) imperfection, 
Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Salvation of God's People; Accomplished or Not?

'Salvation is of the Jews'!

Yes, you may rightly accuse me of taking this striking phrase out of context, but you may remember that Jesus also told another Gentile woman, when she pleaded for help, 'It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw [ it ] to the little dogs' ( Matthew 15:26 ). Jesus seemed to continually ( and painstakingly ) point out that He was sent to save HIS people from their sins ( Matthew 1:21 ); like He said, 'I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel', seemingly in disagreement with several Old Testament passages, Isaiah 49:1-6 in particular ( NOT that they are contradictory )!

Whether or not people are still 'saved' today, whether or not 'salvation' is still in effect or not, is a serious question and consequence of a fulfilled eschatology! If the Salvation that God sent for His people was accomplished ( 'It is finished' ) at the cross ( through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus ), and even physically for the Church at AD70, with the destruction of the Temple, fulfilling Daniel 12:7 ( 'when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered' ), then can we truly seek ( and expect ) a biblical salvation of the same sort that God promised His people under the old, or 'first' [ covenant ]? Can we really say that when one realizes his condition ( rebellion against his Creator ) and turns from his rebellious ways to serve His God, and his neighbor, he has been 'saved'?

Well, yes, and no!

In this world in which we live today, one might easily say, and most Christians do, that we are still under these 'powers of darkness', under ( the law ) of sin and death, so to speak, but the glorious truth is that we are not; we never have been! The Scriptures ( Hebrews 2:14 ) tell us that, 'Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil'. Logic would tell us that, as 'he' who had the power of death was destroyed, else Jesus failed in His purpose ( which He did NOT! ) that 'death' was also destroyed. In fact, Jesus revealed ( Revelation 20:14 ) that 'Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire'. This is where we get into the 'already, not yet' scenario that many Christians 'see' in the prophetic Scriptures.

In a certain sense, there IS a 'salvation' to be sought today, and although related, it is NOT the same (sort of ) salvation that Jesus brought to 'the Israel of God' in the first century ( or IS it?! ). The salvation that many seek today, and wrongly, we might add, is salvation from ourselves, salvation from the institutions and situations that seem to embroil us! Once delivered from those chains, whether real or imagined, one might correctly exult that they have been 'saved', but there again; this is NOT the biblical salvation that we read about in the pages of our Bibles ( or IS it?! )!

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us........was not Yes and No,    but in Him was Yes!
I Corinthians 1:19 

Paul wrote the words above, in a different context, maybe, but I believe they are useful in pointing out that the salvation of God's people is NOT a 'yes and no', or an 'already, but not yet' matter! Either all of God's people received their salvation at the cross ( 'It is finished' ) for all of eternity, or they did not! Either this salvation has been accomplished ( already ), or it has not! Do some of those who were saved, along with the rest of God's people, have yet to realize that salvation? Surely ( I don't mean to call you 'Shirley' ); in that sense, 'they' have yet to receive ( personally ) the Salvation that God has given to His people, but that in no way means that the redemption and salvation of His people is 'already but not yet'!

That radical individualism again!

Part of our modern-day misunderstanding of 'salvation', besides a lack of truly covenantal understanding, is the notion that Jesus died for individuals. Yes; we HAVE been here before, but this pesky little bugger crops up so often and messes with so many doctrines, that it HAS to be dealt with: it's like a weed that won't go away! Surely ( now I AM calling you 'Shirley' ),  Jesus died for me, for you, for the Australian ( down undah ), for the Indian ( on the other side of the globe ), etc, etc, but Scripturally speaking; Jesus did NOT die for individual sinners, He died for the sins of His people Israel ( which 'Israel' you are, if you are His )!

Salvation was ( yes, I said 'was' ) a corporate affair, not an individual matter: individuals, as they joined the Body, were in that sense, 'saved' ( the Philippian jailer for instance, but even then, it was not just him as an individual; his entire family was 'saved' ), and you could find quite a few examples in the New Testament Scriptures of individuals that were 'saved', but most if not all of these examples were representative of the Spread of the Gospel to that person's kith and kin, and were therefore speaking more of a corporate than an individual salvation.

Paul's letters, which comprised the larger body of New Testament writing, spoke most often of the salvation of Israel as a whole, and in fact, he wrote, 'I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh' ( Romans 9:3 ). The Old Testament Scriptures  speak more heavily of the coming salvation and redemption of Israel as One Body!

There is much focus among Christians today, an emphasis really, on the fact that we as individuals must grasp the salvation that Christ wrought for His people almost 2,000 years ago, and while it is true that we must realize that we are/have been in rebellion against our Heavenly Father, this radical focus on the individual's response to that salvation has led to much error, including both the errors of Calvinism and the errors of Arminianism. Both sets of errors are based on the false notion of individual salvation, which in turn, is based on a false eschatology which denies, if consistent, that the salvation which Christ accomplished is complete.

This scares the hell out of many ( most ) Christians today, and actually, this may be what scares many away from unorthodox preterism: if Christ indeed returned when and how He promised, then according to the Old Testament pattern ( Leviticus 16:24 ), our salvation, the salvation of God's people is indeed complete, and all that is left for us to do is to share the knowledge and realization of that accomplished redemption//salvation throughout our known world. Many Christians cannot face that; it is hard to face the responsibility, as Adam found, to simply have dominion and rest in the fact that it has been given to us, that through Christ, we have been given the strength, and that we must, through the strength entrusted to us, make the world a better place!

The sad, yet glorious fact is; many non-Christians, or those whom we would normally look at as non-Christian, have been doing a better job than many Christians at making our world a better place, especially in recent history!

May we who name the name of Christ, who claim to be the people of God, begin to exercise the dominion that He restored to us through His great redemption and salvation, and join, in actuality, those who have done so before us, welcoming us into the realization of our inheritance of the great salvation that He wrought ( past tense ) for His people!

Secure in our salvation,
Charles Haddon Shank